Lancaster University Library Service has recently confirmed the report, which was published last week on the Library’s blog, that the suspension of access to certain electronic resources was in result of suspected incidents of illegal downloading being traced to Lancaster University.
Clare Powne, the University Librarian, explained that suppliers of e-resources take licensing agreements very seriously and routinely use remote monitoring to ensure that there are no breaches of the terms of the agreements. Typically, access to electronic journals and other media will be restricted to excerpts of a publication to avoid an abuse of access rights and extensive automated downloading, which would suggest a use of access not solely for non-educational purposes.
In the instance of a suspected agreement breach it is customary for the access of an entire institution to be temporarily suspended. As extensive automated downloading was traced to a Lancaster University IP address, this resulted in students being denied access to two valuable media: the IEEE Digital Library and a collection of the American Physical Society online journals.
The inconvenience caused was heightened by the suspension occurring at the end of the working week, meaning that students were denied access over the entire weekend. Needless to say, with deadlines constantly on the horizon across the student population, this sort of inconsideration by the offending individual(s) is of a very serious nature and the ISS consider it to be a serious disciplinary offence.
In response to this incident, Powne stated: “[I]t is very important that anyone using electronic books and journals, which are a shared resource for the whole University, observes the expectations of fair use which licences allow, so that their actions do not have an adverse impact on everyone else.”
Access to IEEE was restored shortly after the incident was reported. Full access has now been granted, following assurances by the Library to the publishers that the necessary steps are being taken to reprimand those involved and prevent future recurrences.
The University Librarian has been in dialogue with the individual departments affected and those involved will face investigation from the ISS. It is alleged that at least one student has been reported to the Dean for disciplinary action.
To ensure that students keep up to date with all issues surrounding online facilities it is recommended that they regularly check the Message of the Day bulletin.